“for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” Mt.25:35
The past couple of months have been a huge challenge on the resources and the mindset of continental Europe. We currently face the greatest crisis Europe has been challenged with since the Second World War, the Refugee issue. Yes, when we were confronted by Grexit, there was an overnight emergency meeting of European leaders; when faced with the refugee boats and inhumane settlements, the emergency meeting can take place two weeks down the road. Money seems to be of greater priority to the political will of Europe than the value of life. Yes, when the abandoned lorry with seventy-one victims decomposing inside was not on the side of the M9, the M7 or the M50, it wasn’t really our concern; the Austrians can deal with that. Yes, when we saw the images of the Hungarians building a barbed wire fence, we didn’t get too disturbed. Yes, when the Port of Calais was blocked, we saw it as very inconvenient for our hauliers, caught up in a confrontation not of their making. Or is it? Didn’t that image stare us all in our faces on Thursday morning’s papers of the young three year-old Syrian boy whose lifeless body was washed up like driftwood on a Turkish beach. Surely our baptismal calling invites us and challenges us as a diocese to look after the most vulnerable, to be cognizant of the most forgotten and to welcome the most displaced.
I applaud different efforts in the diocese that are currently underway to address our collective response as parishioners, as followers of Christ to this huge crisis. It calls for an inter-agency response and the church will not be found wanting in playing its part. I encourage parishes and deaneries to gather together to reflect on our pastoral response. I always believe it is important to make distinctions in our use of words – migrants move, refugees flee and in all cases they are fleeing from situations of terror and blatant persecution. In this regard I give my full support to the public meeting organized for St. Peter & Paul’s Church, Portlaoise on Monday next at 8pm. I conclude with the words of Pope Francis who responded to the migrant issue much faster than any other leader in Europe when he spoke at Lampedusa: “Immigrants dying at sea, in boats which were vehicles of hope and became vehicles of death”.
A Prayer for Refugees
Almighty and merciful God,
Whose Son became a refugee
And had no place to call his own.
Look with mercy on those who today
Are fleeing from danger,
Homeless and hungry.
Bless those who work to bring them relief;
Inspire generosity and compassion in all our hearts;
And guide the nations of Europe towards that day
When all will rejoice in your Kingdom of justice and peace.
We make our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.
+ Denis Nulty is Bishop of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin